Joint Statement by the National Committees of Blue Shield and ICOM Georgia Regarding the Fire at the National Gallery of Sukhumi.
We express our deep concern and sorrow in response to the devastating fire that occurred at the National Art Gallery in Sokhumi on January 21, 2024. The incident resulted in the destruction of approximately 4,000 artworks from the 19th and 20th centuries, including over 300 artworks by Alexander Shervashidze-Chachba.
According to the Minister of Culture, Dinara Smiri, only about 150 exhibits were saved from the National Art Gallery collections, housed on the second floor of the central exhibition hall of the “Union of Artists of Abkhazia.” Regrettably, all works by Aleksandre Shervashidze-Chachba were completely destroyed. The fire, as reported by the gallery director, Suram Sakania, originated from electrical wiring on the roof of the building.
Blue Shield and ICOM Georgia National Committees stress the urgency of providing immediate assistance for the surviving exhibits. We stand prepared to offer guidance to the gallery management concerning emergency aid, restoration efforts, and the engagement of international experts.
It is our strong belief that inviting representatives from the Russian Art Scientific and Restoration Center named after I. Grabar, the State Research Institute of Restoration, the Tretyakov Gallery, and the Russian Museum is unacceptable. The Russian side has been associated with numerous instances of destruction, damage, and heritage abduction, leading to a discontinuation of collaboration with major museums worldwide.
Blue Shield and ICOM Georgia National Committees are disseminating information about the incident and appealing for assistance from International Blue Shield, International ICOM, and UNESCO.
The tragic event underscores the importance to assess the state of cultural heritage in Abkhazia, plan and execute necessary measures for monument and cultural institution protection, and prevent similar crisis situations. The relevance of international mission events for this purpose remains undiminished.
Aleksandre Shervashidze-Chachba, an artist, scenographer and art critic, contributed significantly to the artistic landscape of Sokhumi, Saint Petersburg, and Paris, where he spent a substantial part of his life. In 1958, he sent a collection of his artworks to Georgia, and that same year, his first solo exhibition was organized in Tbilisi. A part of his collection is housed in the Shalva Amiranashvili Art Museum of the Georgian National Museum (Tbilisi), while another part was housed in the National Gallery of Sokhumi.
- The statement belongs to the Georgian National Committees of Blue Shield and ICOM, it does not reflect the views of Blue Shield International, the whole Blue Shield Movement, ICOM, or the ICOM Network.